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Colorado theater gunman mentally ill, precluding execution: defense lawyers

James Holmes sits in court for an advisement hearing at the Arapahoe County Justice Center in Centennial, Colorado June 4, 2013. REUTERS/And
James Holmes sits in court for an advisement hearing at the Arapahoe County Justice Center in Centennial, Colorado June 4, 2013. REUTERS/And

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) - Accused Colorado theater gunman James Holmes should not be executed if he is convicted of murdering 12 moviegoers because he suffers from a chronic mental illness, defense lawyers said in a court document made public on Friday.

The disclosure was posted on the court's register of actions, a summary of activity in the case. The exact nature of the mental illness claimed by Holmes's attorneys is unclear because the full motion was filed under seal.

"Motion to strike the death penalty because the state and federal constitutions prohibit the execution of individuals such as Mr. Holmes who suffer from a chronic and serious mental illness," a caption of the pleading reads.

Separately, Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos Samour ruled that a warrantless search of Holmes's booby-trapped apartment was legal because police believed there was "an immediate need to protect the lives or safety of themselves or others."

Holmes, 25, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder for opening fire inside a suburban Denver cinema in July 2012.

Twelve people were slain and 70 others wounded in the shooting rampage, and prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty for the California native if he is convicted.

Public defenders have said in previous court filings and that the 25-year-old former neuroscience graduate student was in the "throes of a psychotic episode" when he went on the shooting spree.

Holmes underwent a court-ordered sanity examination at the state mental hospital after invoking the insanity defense.

The conclusions reached by evaluators have not been publicly released, but public defenders filed another motion asking the judge to suppress certain statements Holmes made during the sanity examination from being used against him during "all phases" of the case.

Defense lawyers also filed a request that jurors should be precluded from hearing victim impact statements until the jury has decided whether Holmes should be executed.

It is unclear from the public file if prosecutors have yet responded to the motions.

Hearings on the capital punishment motions are scheduled for December, and the trial is set to begin in February.

(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Ken Wills)

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